ODYSSEY: The Leader in Defense Commerce Solutions Blog

James Lusk

Recent Posts

3 Reasons To Use VSM Automation

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Oct 9, 2019 @ 12:10 PM

16617

Any contractor who has done work for the DoD is well aware of the DLA’s Vendor Shipment Module. VSM is a web-based application used by the DLA to manage shipment arrangements by providing Transportation Control Numbers for each shipment. It provides labels for small parcel services such as UPS and FedEx, as well as necessary paperwork for large shipments that require transportation carriers, and also allows the government to negotiate favorable rates with carriers. But for a defense contractor, especially those using automation for Mil-Std-129 labeling and WAWF transaction submissions, using the VSM website can be problematic and time consuming. Luckily, there is an alternative available.

There is technology available today that allows defense contractors to simplify the process of working with VSM. Called VSM Automation, the technology effectively streamlines VSM processes for defense contracts. If you’re on the fence about incorporating VSM Automation into your business, here are three reasons why you should:

Set it and forget it

VSM Automation eliminates the need for a contractor to interact with the VSM application, or transfer VSM information into other systems. The technology also allows contractors to prepare shipping labels and create invoices with minimum data entry. Contractors can receive shipment acceptance electronically, without entering data into the WAWF web site.

Make shipments easy

All required data can be directly accessed through a VSM Automation platform. Shipper labels from UPS, FedEx, DHL and others can be easily generated from the same interface.

End-to-End Integration

VSM Automation, especially those systems approved by the DoD, offer automated server-to-server integration with the purchasing, receiving and payment agencies of the DoD. All processes, including bidding, accepting contract awards and fulfilling orders from government agencies is managed in a single streamlined workflow. The improvements in operational efficiency, cash flow and government regulation compliance are immediate.

Odyssey is the market leader in VSM Automation, having released the first Direct VSM Integration available in February 2019. It is the only provider offering an integrated, cross-departmental workflow process utilizing an efficient and effective cloud-based platform. Odyssey is the preferred platform for hundreds of DoD commercial suppliers, non-profit government partners and federal agencies.

Contact Odyssey today to learn more about how our technology can assure your government contract work goes smoothly.

Topics: WAWF, VSM, MIL-STD-129, DoD, department of defense

Government Contracting 101

Posted by James Lusk on Mon, Sep 16, 2019 @ 14:09 PM

element5-digital-OyCl7Y4y0Bk-unsplash

If you’re reading this, the chances are good that you’re either considering pursuing, or have recently entered into a government contract. If that’s true, then it’s easy to understand why. In 2017 alone, the Department of Defense spent approximately $294 billion on goods and services. With about half of those supplies being non-combat related, a wide array of companies from different industries have taken on government contracts. If this is your first contract, you should know that government work is unlike any other. While steady and profitable if done correctly, there are many pitfalls to government contracting that could potentially jeopardize your margins if not successfully navigated.

Below are several lessons you should learn before entering into that first government contract.

There are many rules. 

The DoD has standards governing almost every aspect of the business you have been contracted to complete. There are specific, multiple and disconnected systems (DIBBS, VSM, iRAPT/ WAWF) that suppliers are required to use for bidding, invoicing and asset tracking. And every step in the process introduces the potential for human error, which could negate your hard work.

Maintaining compliance is a big deal. 

Following every standard down to the letter is the key to a successful government contract. Suppliers who fail to meet a standard can be issued a Corrective Action Request (CAR), with four levels of CARs depending on the severity of the infraction. High level CARs require corrective actions that can result in reductions of payments, cost disallowances or even suspension of payments. Combine these with other consequences of noncompliance, such as rejected shipments or potential penalties, and it is easy to see why nonconformities can be so dangerous to your bottom line.

Technology offers a solution. 

There is software available today, developed specifically for government contractors and approved by the DoD, that allows you to take the guesswork out of maintaining compliance and focus on the work at hand. This software reduces requirements for manual data entry (and the accompanying chances for human error), integrates data from DIBBS, VSM and iRAPT/ WAWF, reduces liability in the labeling process, and even alerts you of new contract awards so you can begin working on fulfillment.

Besides supplying the technology, Odyssey’s experience can help you stay ahead of the constantly changing government compliance standards so you can execute your contracts efficiently.

Contact Odyssey today to learn more about how our technology can assure your government contract work goes smoothly.

Topics: WAWF, dod compliance, VSM, iRAPT, DoD, department of defense, DIBBS

What You Need to Know About ASTM D3951

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Aug 1, 2019 @ 11:08 AM

samuel-zeller-JuFcQxgCXwA-unsplash-1

Most military suppliers likely cringe at the mention of packaging specifications like ASTM D3951. Being a supplier for the Department of Defense can be very rewarding for a manufacturer, as the defense industry is a secure and steadily growing multi-billion dollar industry. However, the heavy regulations that govern nearly every aspect of packaging and labeling can cost suppliers enough time and money to make that DoD contract seem far less attractive.

In the Past, This Drove Packaging Out-Of-House

In the past, these stringent regulations on packaging and labeling caused most suppliers to outsource the work to 3rdparty packaging houses that specialize in DoD packaging and labeling. While this adds an additional cost, making the work less profitable, for many suppliers it was necessary to avoid having to deal with the mountain of specifications for physical packaging.

So what does the newest incarnation of these packaging specifications, ASTM D3951, mean for suppliers today?

It’s Likely Not What You Think

What many suppliers might not know is that things have changed. ASTM D3951 is the newest document defining standard practice for commercial packaging of supplies and equipment for DoD contracts. It represents a fundamental shift away from the endless standards for every aspect of packaging. Under ASTM D3951, the DoD’s new relaxed guidelines for packaging place trust in the suppliers’ knowledge of the product they manufacture, and the best way to package it so it will arrive safely.

What Does This Mean For Me?

ASTM D3951 removes one of the obstacles that forced suppliers to outsource their packaging. The other obstacle, labeling, is now the main reason many continue to pay packaging house fees to fulfill their DoD contract work.

With Odyssey’s labeling solutions, suppliers can ensure compliance with all government requirements with just a few clicks. So there’s no longer a reason you can’t bring all your packaging and labeling work in-house, and increase margins for your DoD contracts.

To learn more about how Odyssey can help you cut operating costs and ensure compliance, get in touch with the experts at Odyssey today.

Topics: dod compliance, DoD, labels, department of defense, packaging, ASTM D3951

RFID Printers and More: The Hardware You Need for DoD Commerce

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Jul 10, 2019 @ 14:07 PM

dod commerce hardware might include conveyor belts and rfid label printers

Many companies take pride in supplying the US government and military with a variety of goods – including uniforms and boots, heavy machinery, materials needed for combat, and even basic office supplies. Working as a DoD supplier can also provide a financially rewarding, long-term business relationship.

It can be challenging to get started, especially if you’ve never provided goods to government agencies before. The complex processes and compliance requirements can deter new suppliers from bidding on contracts. But once you obtain the right hardware and software, your DoD commerce processes become simpler and more efficient.

High-level DoD commerce hardware checklist

Here are some items you may need to get started with DoD commerce. You can purchase these items from individual vendors, or work with a partner that provides a comprehensive DoD commerce solution. 

 

  • Label printer (RFID or non, depending on your needs)
  • Scanners
  • Imagers
  • Readers
  • Verification/validation devices
  • Labels/ribbons

If you’re not sure whether RFID makes a difference, read this article to learn more about why RFID matters when doing business with the government. 

5 key questions to ask about RFID printers

As you’re considering your options and making decisions about your DoD commerce hardware setup, here are some crucial questions to ask about label printers:

  1. Does the printer’s manufacturer specialize in RFID? Some of the most popular printers on the market may not be RFID specialists. As you consider the many label printer options on the market, look for this point of differentiation. 
  2. How much does it cost to configure and test print? Find out what sort of configuration and testing options are available when purchasing from a manufacturer, or whether it makes more sense to purchase through a different source.
  3. How easy is it to ensure the labels we’re printing are DoD-compliant? Having the right hardware doesn’t guarantee that the labels you’re printing are going to be compliant with Department of Defense standards. Make sure you have a solution in place for creating compliant labels. 
  4. What kind of ongoing support is offered? This will help you determine whether to purchase from the manufacturer or a different retailer.
  5. How does the hardware integrate into the rest of our DoD commerce processes? For maximum efficiency, it’s best to integrate all the hardware and software components into an end-to-end process.

An integrated, complete DoD commerce solution

Odyssey, a government-approved software vendor, also offers all the hardware suppliers need for efficient, compliant DoD commerce. Our team of experts offers configuration, test printing, and support free with the purchase of a label printer; we’ll also configure and support your existing hardware for a small fee. 

The real benefit is a fully integrated process that brings together all the components needed for successful DoD commerce. Get in touch with Odyssey and let us help you build a more efficient process for doing business with the government.

Should You Outsource Your Defense Commerce Labeling and Reporting with Transaction Services?

Posted by James Lusk on Sat, May 25, 2019 @ 12:05 PM

Collaborating on defense contract fulfillment via outsourcing

Supplying the government with any kind of physical goods, from boots to jet engines, requires a completely different set of business processes to manage shipping, fulfillment, and compliance with DoD standards.

Understandably, many companies choose to outsource these business processes. For example, Odyssey offers Transaction Services, where we manage the labels and data submission requirements to ensure your contract is fulfilled according to government compliance standards.

Here are four questions you can ask that may indicate outsourcing this aspect of your DoD contract management is the right move.

1. Are you new to working with the Department of Defense?

As you’re probably finding out, supplying the federal government comes with a considerable learning curve. Between the terminology, compliance requirements, labeling processes, and often confusing government sites and databases, fulfilling a defense contract presents numerous challenges.

Until you know how much business you’re going to be doing with the DoD, it might not make sense to invest in the hardware and software required to effectively handle all the required processes.

2. Does DoD commerce account for a relatively small portion of your overall business? 

Because the requirements for labeling and reporting compliance are complex, many suppliers end up spending a disproportionate amount of time managing their work with the government compared to their private-sector clients. If you don’t do a lot of business with the DoD relative to your other customers, outsourcing these processes on a per-contract basis could be the right choice.

As you are awarded more contracts, you can decide to continue outsourcing these processes or to bring the work in-house using a defense commerce software like Odyssey’s.

3. Do you have limited staff to help with the requirements of working with the government? 

If managing the labeling of items and submitting data to VIM or iRAPT is pulling staff away from other work, getting some outside help with this time-consuming process may be the best approach. Outsourcing this business process to a provider like Odyssey frees up valuable capacity on your team. And if staffing changes, you can opt to have your team handle those tasks for your next defense contract.

4. Were you awarded a contract that involves UID? 

This is specific to current Odyssey users who leverage our iRAPT/WAWF Console, RFID and MIL-STD-130 capabilities, but are awarded a contract that requires UID. The Odyssey team can handle these requirements on a per-contract basis, saving you from having to upgrade your Odyssey software to manage UID. This is a good option if you don’t typically deal with UID, and don’t expect to have future contracts of this type.

If any of the situations above apply to you, it’s worth considering Odyssey’s Transaction Services. On a per-contract basis, our team creates all required labels and submits the necessary data to iRAPT in a compliant, timely fashion. Learn more about our Transaction Services.

A Primer on the IUID Registry: What DoD Vendors Should Know

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Mar 6, 2019 @ 17:03 PM

iuid compliance with iuid registry for military gear and more

When it comes to MIL-STD-130 compliance, it would be nice if all you had to do was slap an IUID label on the item and call it a day. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. DoD suppliers must also register the required data with the government in order to be in compliance.

What is the IUID Registry?

The IUID Registry, hosted within the government’s iRAPT suite (formerly Wide Area Workflow, or WAWF), serves as the central repository for all IUID data. This allows the government to track the vast amount of items it acquires.

As the government’s system of record, the IUID Registry gives them an audit trail for all assets. The system allows them to analyze the entire lifecycle of assets, informing decisions about logistics, systems, and operations.

Learn more about item unique identification (IUID) and how to correctly label assets for MIL-STD-130 compliance here.

What information must be submitted to the IUID Registry?

For every item delivered, you must submit data that’s compliant with the IUID syntax. Here is the basic information you’ll plan to submit about the assets you supply to the government:

  • What the item is

  • How and when it was acquired by the government

  • Its initial value

  • Its custody status (who has the asset on-hand, you or the government)

  • How it’s marked for tracking

  • Additional details for end items, legacy items, and government-furnished property as applicable

Here are some data points you’ll need to have at-the-ready when reporting to the IUID Registry in order to ensure you’re meeting the reporting requirements and remaining in compliance:

  • Contract number and type

  • CLIN-level detail

  • Acquisition costs

  • Unit of measure

  • CAGE code

  • Part and serial number

  • UID number

  • Date of shipment

  • Date of acceptance

If you’re new to Department of Defense terminology or need a refresher, take a look at our DoD Glossary.

What are some common pitfalls when using the IUID Registry?

IUID Registry reporting must be 100% accurate because it is the system of record for all government assets. Although it is possible to make changes to IUID data you’ve already submitted, it can be a painful process. Better to get it right the first time.

But this also poses a challenge: manually entering pedigree information (via a government website that’s somewhat less than user-friendly) can be a time-consuming chore. What’s more, manual data entry is a minefield of potential mistakes that could result in audits and penalties. The amount of painstaking data entry needed to comply with IUID Registry requirements is just not scalable in the long run, especially as you look to grow your revenues from DoD commerce.

How can I make IUID compliance easier?

All the data you’ll need to successfully submit asset information to the IUID Registry is easily created or quickly imported using a solution like Odyssey’s. Our end-to-end DoD commerce solution streamlines IUID-related tasks to reduce user error and redundancies. Odyssey’s IUID modules have been designed to scale with DoD requirements as they evolve, and are built to ensure simple, sustainable workflows as your business grows.

By ensuring compliance and accuracy, Odyssey solutions for IUID give your business a competitive edge. Learn about how we drastically simplify the complex compliance processes required for DoD suppliers – get in touch with us today.

Topics: MIL 130 N, UID compliance

What Odyssey’s New Integration with DLA’s Vendor Shipment Module Means for You

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 @ 17:02 PM

new integration with DLA Vendor Shipment Module

Recently, Odyssey announced a new integration with Defense Logistics Agency’s Vendor Shipment Module (VSM) that expands on current functionality for shipping label access. We had previously built an integration for Freight on Board (FOB) Destination shipments to allow you to access the necessary shipping labels, and the new integration lets you do the same for FOB Origin. This integration is the first of its kind and streamlines contract fulfillment processes for DoD suppliers like you.

Before the new VSM integration

The government has a program called First Destination Transportation Program (FDTP) that provides for the government to pay the shipping costs. Our platform was already integrated with DLA’s tool for FOB Destination shipments, and the previous functionality allowed suppliers to create all DoD-specific labels, such as NSN, MSL, and CASE.

However, businesses were not previously able to access or submit data for contracts designated for FOB Origin, and had to do an extra step of logging into VSM to access the shipping labels they needed.

What the integration means for DoD suppliers

With Odyssey’s new integration, all the required data can be directly accessed through our platform. Shipper labels for UPS, Fedex, DHL, and others can be easily generated from the same interface. This type of direct integration with VSM has never been available before, and Odyssey customers benefit from an even more efficient process.

If you’re an existing Odyssey customer, this new VSM integration upgrade is available at no cost. To learn more, contact us or refer to the Help tabs within the Odyssey software interface.

We know constantly evolving requirements create a burden for DoD suppliers, so being first to market with this VSM integration is exciting because we know it will help our customers fulfill government contracts more efficiently.

See the press release here, and get in touch with us to learn more about how we can make the process of doing business with the government easier and more profitable for your business.

Topics: VSM

How to Correctly Label Assets Using the MIL-STD-130 UID Label Format

Posted by James Lusk on Sun, Jan 13, 2019 @ 12:01 PM

 

business people working on correct uid label format

 MIL-STD-130 gives instructions how to mark items purchased by the US Department of Defense, including instructions on acceptable materials, text formatting and syntax rules for identifying marks, where markings should be located, etc.

What is UID label formatting all about?

The MIL-STD-130 requirements include rules about using the UID unique identifier data matrix for machine-readable information.

The most recent updates to MIL-STD-130N, “Change 1,” which took place in 2012, made changes to allow for easier automation data capture via machines. The unique identifier follows an asset throughout its entire lifecycle for easier tracking.

Why is this so important for DoD suppliers to understand?

Time and again, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and other auditors have reported that the US government lacks reliable, comprehensive information about all its property, equipment, and inventory. Without a strict system in place, the government would be incapable of knowing what assets exist, how many of a certain type they have, and where they are. Following the labeling and tracking requirements set forth by the government helps suppliers get paid on time and potentially win more contracts in the future.

UID label format basics

Let’s level-set with some basics of UID label formatting.

  • What does the government define as an “item?” The DoD defines an item as “a single hardware article or a unit formed by a grouping of subassemblies, components, or constituent parts.” In a general sense, hardware refers to physical items like tools, equipments, kits, fittings, and so on.
  • How do I know if I have to mark it with a unique identifier? The DoD has some helpful decision trees (starting on page 13 of this guide) to help answer this question. Items may need to be given unique identifier markings based on their value, intended use, and other factors.
  • What pieces of information are needed for the unique identifier? Instead of requiring items to be labeled with a unique identifier, the government only requires the label to contain the component parts of the unique identifier. Machines then read its component parts to figure out the unique identifier. Those components are: issuing agency code, enterprise identifier, serial number and, for Construct #2 additionally, original part number or lot or batch number.
  • What is an issuing agency code? The issuing agency code, or IAC, is that assigned by the Registration Authority for ISO/IEC 15459-2. Examples include organizations like the GS1 Global Office, the US Department of Defense, and Dun & Bradstreet.
  • What is the difference between Construct #1 and #2? These concepts refer to how items are serialized. If #1, they are serialized according to an entirely unique, alphanumeric code set by the manufacturer or vendor. If #2, the code is serialized within the part, lot, or batch number of the item.

How do I make all this easier?

Odyssey’s software, hardware, and labels help DoD suppliers ensure compliance with all government requirements with just a few clicks. We work with many companies to address the challenges of DoD commerce. With all the complexities and potential pitfalls, we’ve seen that a holistic approach to DoD commerce and compliance is the best option. In other words, using a single integrated system to manage the end-to-end process of finding and bidding on contracts, quickly and easily creating compliant UID labels, submitting required information to multiple government databases, invoicing and so on.

In addition, working with a company that specializes in this area ensures you have an expert partner to consult with as you get your team up to speed on DoD supplier processes and as new challenges and regulations arise. If you’re interested in learning more about how to drive greater efficiency and ensure 100% compliance with DoD commerce processes, talk to the experts at Odyssey today.

 

Topics: UID compliance

Is An ERP Enough For Department of Defense Suppliers?

Posted by James Lusk on Tue, Nov 27, 2018 @ 17:11 PM

DoD supplier trying to manage contracts via ERP and DoD-approved software

Enterprise Resource Planning, or ERP, can be a valuable tool for companies large and small to improve the flow of internal processes and facilitate better communication between the different teams within your business. In fact, 81% of organizations are either currently implementing ERP software or have completed an implementation.

But does ERP have everything companies need when it comes to fulfilling defense contracts?

Unique process needs for Department of Defense suppliers

For many companies, DoD commerce is one part of their business. In addition to their core business, they might supply government agencies with everything from heavy equipment to combat apparel.

While an ERP system makes sense to streamline many typical back-office functions, working as a DoD or DLA supplier in any capacity is fundamentally different than serving your typical customers. From finding contracts to processing shipments to tracking invoices, supplying goods to the DoD requires specific processes to be followed and requirements to be complied with.

For example, creating and printing DoD-compliant labels and submitting RFID tag tracking information is required, and many businesses use the government’s online systems to submit this data. However, data has to be entered into multiple disconnected systems, leading to a time-consuming and error-prone process for what’s often a small percentage of your overall revenue. Unfortunately, ERP is not the answer.

Why ERP is not enough for managing DoD contract fulfillment

DoD-approved software is not only designed to streamline the work of fulfilling government contracts, it has direct integrations into DoD systems that ERPs don’t natively have. Due to government cybersecurity standards, few solutions can deliver direct integration across all the systems needed to handle DoD compliance efficiently.

The alternatives are:

1) to manage parts of the fulfillment process through ERP and then submit required data to the government using their multiple disparate systems

2) to attempt to build custom ERP integrations into all the required government systems, which can become prohibitively expensive and time-consuming

3) to use a DoD-approved solution like Odyssey that can natively perform all the necessary DoD commerce tasks you need while integrating with your ERP

Clearly, the wisest choice is to rely on software that is purpose-built for DoD commerce functions. Not only does this save time and reduce errors, it’s designed to ensure compliance with government requirements – which ERP systems are not.

Helping companies turn their work with the Defense Department into a steady, efficient revenue stream is our area of expertise. Talk to us about configuring the right solution for you.

Topics: ERP

What to Look for in Government Contract Management Software

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 @ 17:10 PM

 DoD supplier using industry leading government contract management software

Although steady contract work with the Department of Defense and other federal agencies can provide a reliable income stream, the challenges and complexities of working with the government can be overwhelming for many businesses.

We find that many suppliers end up spending a disproportionate amount of time managing contracts and compliance for DoD commerce – and exposing their companies to a disproportionate amount of risk – compared to time spent dealing with their “regular” customers.

Why You Need Government Contract Management Software

Why is it so important for DoD suppliers to be using a government contract management and fulfillment solution? Because of the risk and the lack of efficiency inherent in trying to manage DoD commerce without a streamlined approach.

The government’s highly specific and stringent requirements for vendors make it all too easy to inadvertently slip up if you’re not using DoD-approved software to manage the entire process. And the results of mistakes can be significant: rejected shipments, delayed transactions, cash flow issues, even penalties from the government.

However, getting compliance right can mean more on-time and early payments, and helps you build your reputation as a vendor. As a result, it can become easier to secure renewals or open up future contract opportunities.

In addition to compliance and cash flow benefits, there are also efficiency gains to consider. Instead of managing contracts through a variety of different, disconnected government systems and internal spreadsheets, DoD commerce software allows you to use one centralized system to simplify the end-to-end contract management and fulfillment process.

6 Key Elements to Look For

When searching for government contract management software, make sure it delivers these six key attributes:

1. Comprehensive. The solution you choose should help manage every step of the process, from finding and bidding on contracts, to fulfilling orders and getting paid – even the required scanners and equipment. This is a better approach than using point solutions for different parts of the process, since that can introduce unnecessary opportunities for human error as well as risk, and does not provide a meaningful efficiency benefit compared to using the government’s various websites and systems.

2. Easy to use. Your team should be able to complete the necessary processes with just a few keystrokes. The right solution can reduce the risk of human errors by requiring you to only enter data once, and ensure you’re using the same NSNs and other nomenclature approved by the government with simple dropdown lists.

3. DoD-approved. Not all government contract management software solutions are created equal. It’s important to work with a solution that has the necessary integrations into government systems to ensure data is transferred back and forth with speed and accuracy. Read more about the benefits of using government contract management software approved by the DoD.

4. Streamlines the process. There’s no point using a tool to unify your contract management and fulfillment processes unless it saves you time. Time savings free you up to focus on the core elements of your business, and enable you to fulfill even more DoD contracts in the future to grow your business.

5. Ensures 100% compliance. We’ve already mentioned the risks of non-compliance with all the standards and requirements that come along with government commerce. Look for solutions that offer strong compliance management capabilities to protect your business – and give you peace of mind.

6. Offers support and training. Beyond the software itself, the business partner you choose should provide training, ongoing support, process and compliance advice, and updates on the latest rule changes.

Finding the Right Solution for Your Business

As a leading provider of solutions for DoD commerce, Odyssey’s software and expertise are highly specialized in this field to deliver the best possible efficiency gains and compliance for your business.

See how government suppliers heart&core and Kessler Soils Engineering ensure compliant, efficient government contract management processes and drive increased cash flow using Odyssey’s DoD-approved software.

 

Topics: business technology, dod software